ONE week to the hour after the accident that cost Parker his life, our family and closest friends gathered in the temple. There, we participated in something we hoped would be strengthening and unifying. We had no idea how just strengthening and just how unifying — how unearthly and significant — the evening would end up being.
Similar to how the living can receive special temple blessings that empower them and enable them to progress in this life, so can the deceased, by representation through living proxies, receive the same blessings which help them progress in the next life. We felt forcefully to offer these blessings to Parker, and secured permission to do so.
Randall was to stand in as surrogate so that his oldest son could receive the blessings of entering into sacred covenants with God, or what is called receiving his “endowment.” We understood that Parker would need the chance to accept or reject these most crucial blessings and their attendant power and responsibilities.
We knew Parker. And he wanted to get things moving. Fast.
We arrived with anguished hearts at the temple. After changing from his street clothing into temple white, Randall made his way to an area where preparatory blessings are given prior to the general meeting itself.
There, the temple worker measured the suffering in Randall’s eyes and immediately asked why he had come this night. Upon hearing, the worker quietly whispered to two fellow temple colleagues. As these men stood over Randall, their hands laid upon his head ready to bless him, tears spontaneously streamed down their cheeks as they pronounced holy promises to our son, in whose stead Randall was serving.
Then Randall came to join me in a secluded room that had been arranged for us to have a moment of privacy before the temple assembly began.
On that short walk to the room where friends and family were waiting, something began to happen, but because he was virtually unaware of it, Randall had to count on the reaction of others to realize what had taken place. I saw it almost immediately when he entered the private room where I had been waiting and praying.
There he found me, head bowed, tissue in hand, already emotionally spent, but at the same time focused — really focused — on the life-giving force I knew came from temple covenants. I can assure you: I was clinging to them for my own life.
As he sat down beside me, I looked up to find my bereaved husband smiling.
His eyes were bright, and all turbine engines were humming in high gear, it seemed, so that his manner was light, in weight as well as in radiance.
So I mopped up my sogginess, and paid close attention. Extremely close attention.
I didn’t stare at him, I don’t think, but I couldn’t help but notice how fresh he looked, how rosy-cheeked, brisk and cheerful. It left me speechless. Concerned, even. I remember shaking my head as I listened to this husband of mine, the same who, just an hour earlier, had been practically immobilized and silenced by the burden of grief. Now, he was now literally on the balls of his feet as if he’d walked in the door after a great game of basketball, or after winning a tennis match. This man who’d neither slept nor eaten for a week, who’d been racked with sorrow so fierce, the capillaries around his eyes had burst and his voice had grown hoarse, the man who could barely walk because his body felt lined with lead — right there in that small temple waiting room that same man started to look an awful lot like the guy I had married over 22 years earlier.
No. Actually, he looked younger.
He was more than buoyant. He was boyish.
From inside of all that energy, Randall was wondering how it was that his sorrow had passed so soon and so instantly––Less than a week! Wow! Miracle recovery!––and thought this was how he would now feel from that point moving forward. Grinning at me and taking confident strides, he escorted me to the larger room.
There, we were able to keep an eye on each other. And trust me, I kept an eye on him. The text and spirit of the proceedings now overpowered me, and I still recall how I watched a delicate pattern of tear drops in my lap grow to a solid mark the size of my palm. I shook with soundless sobs and struggled to breathe, my chest was so constricted with the downward pressure of heartache and the upward swellings of gratitude to God.
But Randall? Beaming. His chin was up, his eyes were glinting, his shoulders squared, and his countenance totally serene. He was, as he would explain to me later and as he still remembers with incredulity today, figuratively rubbing his palms together in anticipation. This stayed with him throughout the time in the temple and followed him home.
He could no more help it than explain it.
He hummed as he drove across town. I went through tissues.
He smiled calmly in his rearview mirror. I watched that mirror.
Fifteen minutes we drove. The whole way, I struggled with the abrupt change I’d seen in my husband’s countenance and manner.
We parked the rental car. We walked through the back door of my parents’ home. We lay our things on the basement bed.
And right there, from one step to the next, the profound sadness Randall had known all week returned. Like the felling of a tree, grief landed on him again, that suffocating weight that levels the spirit, making it hard to stand.
But easy to drop to one’s knees. Which is where we landed together in prayer ––a raw prayer shredded in strips by sharp emotion––part pleading, part terror at a reality we could not take in whole, and part silence where words themselves bowed low to a truth too awful to utter. We fell asleep sharing tears of great longing for Parker, knowing, though not being able to explain, how he had been with us in a way never before (and surely never again to be) experienced.
Tabernacles to Temples
July 26th, 2007
“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22
These animal skin coverings feel soaked from floating
in sorrow’s brine, and we groan
under their weight, groan
towing tent and tackle up the foothills
toward the Mountaintop.
A week we’ve staggered, and barely,
so that today we would bring our broken tabernacle selves to the temple
arms pressed to chest against the centrifugal cyclone
arms wrapped tightly around the sacrifice we carry:
shredded heart, splintered spirit.
We’ve walked as pulled, pulled as by some
magnetic imperative to this
the centering place.
An altar awaits us here
where under the cover of His cloud we lean into our witness
and empty these, our elemental tents excavated
all earth dust.
Heads brought low, we draw open our fine white linen robes to spill
oaths, hearts, viscera, tears (spirit blood)
over the offering table.
These tents must be carved out, burned bare to cinder,
Hollowed for the hallowing.
Collapsible tabernacles rise from their ash-coated knees
rise riding the surge which carries to the inner lining
draped round the place overlaid with gold
which gold endowment pours over and into us,
until we are newly soaked, floating,
buoyant in His glory.
Here, we are aware: the spinning has stopped.
The cyclone seems moved outside.
And now the singular exhilarating dis-covering:
we are centered
entered into by His Spirit
and by his spirit
lifts onto tip-toes,
ignites within crater eyes brilliant blue flames of youth.
In this Mount, transfiguration:
From tabernacles, temples.
© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.